Mount Agung in Bali has been thrusting ash thousands of feet into the sky for almost two weeks. Lava is burbling at the volcano’s peak. Indonesian authorities have ordered evacuations around Agung, while tourists are stranded at the closed airport. The volcano’s flanks are bulging from magma trying to push its way out, and earthquake frequency has been increasing.
We started 2016 with a bang. Both Chile and Indonesia saw a clutch of volcanoes erupting after laying dormant for a decade or more. This followed an eruption in April 2015, when Calbuco volcano in Chile burst back to life after more than 40 years of silence, with experts giving less than two hours of warning. In an era of global satellite monitoring with proliferating networks of instruments on the ground, why can we still not accurately predict volcanic eruptions?